Can you use a cheap USB hub as a charging station?

Here’s the bottom line with life today. You can’t have enough USB ports. You’ll probably notice USB-enabled outlets in your local home store, and for good reason: Pretty much everything you really want today charges from the USB port, and that leaves you wanting some way to make better use of the outlets you have, especially in a hotel room. Wireless charging is great and getting better, but it’s not available in every device. It’s also guaranteed slower than USB charging. Sometimes you just need that USB power bump.

The cheaper solution

You might be tempted to use something like the super-inexpensive USB hub you see above, reasoning that after all it does take one USB port and multiplies it out to four. However, it probably won’t work. Without a power adapter, there probably isn’t enough power flowing through each of the four ports to charge your devices effectively. After all, your typical USB connection, whether from a wall wart or computer, supplies one amp of power and splitting that four ways gives each port only one-quarter amp, enough power for data to transfer from a device but not enough to power it. Using a 2.1 amp charger isn’t recommended for a USB hub… it isn’t designed for it and will shorten the device’s life. A lot of times it just won’t work.

If you find a powered USB hub that plugs into the wall, it will usually supply power to all the devices, at least enough for a smartphone if not a phablet or tablet.

What you really need

What you really want to use is something like this DigiPower wall charger, which is specifically designed to give you a nice strong power source for all your electronics. If you have devices with higher charge rates like top-end smartphones or tablets, consider something like our Plugable 40W charger. For those who are really serious, check out this Sewell charging station.  It’s seriously pricey but hey, if you want to charge ten tablets from one outlet, you’re going to need a serious piece of hardware.

Should you choose a USB outlet?

So what of those USB outlets? Nothing wrong with putting them in if you’re handy enough to change an outlet. Keep in mind that most of them only put out one amp of power. You’ll need 2.1 amps if you’re going to charge tablets and larger phones. The last thing you want is to spend time and money changing something in the house only to find that it doesn’t do what you need. Today’s outlets have ports conforming to the USB-A standard, not the USB-C standard that’s still up and coming. I forecast that within a decade, things will have moved largely to USB-C. USB-C is better because of its ability to deliver massive amounts of power. Then, of course, you’ll upgrade your outlets again.

When you’re ready for the best in chargers and other USB accessories, shop the great selection at Solid Signal! If you’re not sure what you need, give us a call at 877-312-4547 during East Coast business hours! We’ll be happy to help you figure out what you need.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.